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Today, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to Oakland (MI) University (“OU”) demanding it apologize to former student Inara Ramazanova for evicting her from campus housing because she shared information about COVID-19 vaccine accommodations on social media. OU’s decision forced Ms. Ramazanova to spend her final semester at home and it placed a disciplinary record in her student file maintained by the Dean of Students’ office, which will remain there for approximately the next seven years and potentially affect her future academic or professional pursuits.

You can read the letter here.

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“Punishing a student for exercising their free speech is not only illegal, it’s outrageous.  Kicking them out of their housing and damaging their future pursuits is punitive and vindictive,” said Justin Butterfield, Deputy General Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “The university violated Inara’s Constitutional rights and the Fair Housing Act.  They owe her an apology and a clean academic record.”

Last summer, OU granted Ms. Ramazanova, who immigrated from Russia, a religious accommodation from the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  The accommodation would have allowed her to reside on campus for the 2021–22 academic year.  However, OU then evicted Ms. Ramazanova from campus after she shared her request and her granted exemption in a Facebook group, claiming her post to be “collusion or conspiracy” under the OU’s Code of Conduct.  Many members of the Facebook group were asking questions on how to best express their sincerely held religious beliefs and receive a religious accommodation.

According to First Liberty’s letter, “OU’s disciplining and evicting Ms. Ramazanova because she shared about her religious convictions regarding vaccination and about how she sought and received a religious accommodation from OU—all in an effort to more effectively exercise her civil rights and aid others in doing the same—violated Mr. Ramazanova’s rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech and religious exercise, and the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits both religious discrimination in housing and taking actions against a person for aiding others in having their religious rights in housing respected.”

Author: Press Release

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